WASHINGTON -- To make room for left-hander Tom Gorzelanny, who started on Sunday against the Orioles, the Nationals decided to put outfielder Rick Ankiel on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to June 15.

Ankiel, who has a rib-cage injury, was seen in the indoor cage taking batting practice before Sunday's game against the Orioles. After the hitting practice was over, Ankiel had a meeting with manager Jim Riggleman, general manager Mike Rizzo and head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz. The decision was then made that Ankiel would not play in a Major League game for a while.

Ankiel hurt himself after catching a routine fly ball off the bat of Cardinals third baseman Daniel Descalso in the top of the second inning on Tuesday night.

Ankiel was supposed to bat in the bottom of the inning, but was lifted for pinch-hitter Roger Bernadina.

"With Rick, we've played with 24 players for a long time, but the trainer wasn't sure if it was going to be two days or three days," Rizzo said. "With that, I think the best thing for him is to get it taken care of and get some at-bats on a rehab stint. When he's eligible to come off, he should be ready to go and have some at-bats under his belt."

Ankiel said he was upset about being put on the DL, but understood why the decision was made.

"At the same time, it's the right call," Ankiel said. "We sat down and we talked about it. I feel like I'll be able to play on Tuesday, but there is always, what if you tweak it more on Tuesday night? It's an awkward injury. It's something you don't want to do again."

As for Gorzelanny, the left-hander made his first big league appearance since May 23 against the Brewers. Gorzelanny missed almost a month because of a sore left elbow. He was expected throw around 90 pitches against the Orioles on Sunday.

Nats honor 'My Dad, My MVP' contest winner

WASHINGTON -- Wayne Schlauch spent "every minute" of 33 years waiting for baseball to return to his hometown of Washington. His four children were no longer young when the Nationals arrived in 2005, but he still took them to see his favorite team.

Schlauch's children returned the favor on Father's Day, when the Nationals honored the 60-year-old mechanic. A celebrity panel and fans selected Schlauch as Washington's representative in Major League Baseball's inaugural "My Dad, My MVP" contest.

The Nationals honored Schlauch on Sunday before playing the Orioles -- a team Schlauch reluctantly supported when there was no squad in Washington.

"It's great. I can't believe I'm here," said Schlauch, who has a 22-game season ticket plan at Nationals Park, but had not been on the field until Sunday's game.

Schlauch was not only on the field for the end of Baltimore's batting practice and the pregame ceremonies, but he presented the umpires with Washington's lineup card and spoke with manager Jim Riggleman on the dugout steps.

Three of his children -- 23-year-old Erin, 28-year-old Roxanne and 35-year-old Marc -- looked on from the backstop, while four of his six grandchildren watched from the stands. His oldest daughter -- 37-year Trisha -- lives in Detroit.

Erin wrote the nominating essay for her father -- one of 3,200 submissions -- after Roxanne read about the contest on Facebook.

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"Within seconds I was pretty much on the phone with [Erin]," Roxanne said. "I said, 'You're the freshest out of school, so you write it.'"

Erin submitted her story at MLB.com/mvpdad, then the whole family voted for Schlauch, who continues to work long hours as a mechanic after suffering a heart attack on the job in 1997. When Schlauch leaves the shop, the work continues, as Erin credits him with handling the upkeep of all his children's cars.

"A lot of kids growing up think their parents are like superheroes, but I still believe fully that my dad is one," Erin said. "I feel like there's nothing he can't do -- he's one of the most amazing people I ever met. He never gives up; he always sacrifices to help us. He's always been working, and taught us the value of hard work. There's no real big story there, he's just always been there."

The big story could have come 14 years ago, when Schlauch had his heart attack.

"No, I have to stay at work," Schlauch told the emergency responders before eventually undergoing a double bypass surgery. "I don't need to go, I'm fine. Just let me work."

Schlauch returned to the shop as quickly as he could -- eager to continue working. And whatever he earned, he put right back into the family.

"He wouldn't do things he maybe wanted to do, because he had to be there for his children. Maybe not buying a brand new car because he's still helping his children with their own bills," Erin said. "He's always putting in hard hours at work, just to make sure we have everything we need."

Erin and her siblings used Father's Day to honor that.

Schlauch's children looked on, snapping photographs with pride. His grandchildren were amazed to see him on the same field where the Nationals play. Schlauch was just happy to be surrounded by them all -- something he makes a point of as often as possible.

"We always try to get together on special occasions," he said. "But sometimes you don't need a special occasion."

Offense packing punch with Zimmerman back

WASHINGTON -- Before third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was activated from the disabled list, the Nationals had one of the worst offenses in the Major Leagues.

Since Tuesday, however, when Zimmerman was activated, the Nationals have averaged 7.4 runs per game entering Sunday's game against the Orioles. Hitting coach Rick Eckstein noticed the difference once Zimmerman returned to the lineup.

"I read a comment where Ryan is a big part of this franchise," Eckstein said. "The guys respect him, love him, the whole package that he brings to the table. Guys feed off of him. I think that has been evident since he has come back.

"Prior to him coming back, the guys battled. They did everything they could do. Obviously, his presence just takes it to a different level."

Eckstein is a popular figure in the Nationals' organization. He is lauded for his worth ethic, but he often blames himself whenever the offense goes into a cold spell.

Asked if he was feeling better since the offense is doing much better, Eckstein said, "Yeah. I never lost focus of what we could do offensively. We just weren't doing it. It's was just trying to figure out what we could do better. The fruits of their labor are starting to show with the addition of Zim. That whole package is starting to come together. It shows what these guys are capable of doing."